Taking Pictures of Strangers

Vincent Marino (photographed for 1883 magazine)

I’ve always been fascinated by people and people watching has been a favourite pastime of mine since I can remember.
On the other hand, I’m a tad socially awkward and I find quite hard to approach people who I don’t know.
Recently I’ve finally (partly) overcome my awkwardness in approaching strangers and I’ve started asking more and more people  on the street if I can take their picture.

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Orschel-Read after show party at Madame Jojo’s

Since I’ve assisted during the shooting for the new Orschel-Read collection lookbook, I’ve got the opportunity to attend the after show party and it has been so much fun!

me (on the right) and a couple of friends at the party - picture by Fukaya Wataru

The venue was Madame Jojo’s, a fantastic club in Soho, that hosts Tranny Shack, a cabaret night that is described on the website as “one of London’s most popular avante-garde cabaret club nights. Every Wednesday this award-winning party welcomes fabulous drag queens, gender illusionists, dressed-up Klub Kids, transexuals, faces-about-town, and a host of other wild creatures channelling glamorous polysexuality!

I had never been to a drag queen club before and I didn’t know what I was missing out!

The party was wild and the shows totally amazed me.

I wish I could do this

she sang a song from Hedwig and the angry inch and she blew everybody away

velvia 50 crossprocessed in c41 chemicals - the scans are awful, but I like these two pictures

I also got some old film developed and found more behind the scenes pictures from the shooting that I totally forgot about

17 years old model

standing in to test the lights

Assisting

studio waste - tons of flowers trashed after a shooting

Since I’ve graduated and moved to London, I’ve been looking for jobs, trying to break into the photography industry and it’s not been easy at all.

While studying I had no idea of the amount of technical knowledge needed to be a professional freelance assistant in London!

My university was a lovely place to experiment and learn about fine art/documentary photography, but, being based in the North East of England, I was so far away from London, where apparently everything of a certain relevance happens, that when I came here I didn’t have a clue about it works in the “professional world”.

I assisted some photographers back in Italy and it was completely different. I worked with Angelo Cricchi, a photographer that I deeply admire, but he works mainly on film and with continuos lighting, so it was not so challenging to assist him while still at uni.

I knew that I needed to work as an assistant to gain first hand experience on professional/commercial photography.

At first I tried to propose myself as a freelance assistant to a huge number of high end photographers and I landed a couple of jobs before realising that I was missing too much technical knowledge to work in that position.

Set

I was second assistant on an Italian beauty editorial shoot with Phil Poynter and I loved it, but I was also glad to be only the second assistant because if I was first I think that I would have messed up the whole thing!

For my second job I was the first assistant of another photographer and I totally screwed it up!

At that point I’ve being kindly suggested to try my luck as a studio assistant first to learn about all the equipment and get enough experience and contacts to become a photographer’s assistant.

I didn’t even know of the existence of the studio assistant job, but thanks to some chats with photographers and assistants I got the contacts of some of the main studios in London.

I started (and I’m still) working shifts at Big Sky and Sunbeam Studios and I booked an intensive assistant one day course at Direct Lighting, the rental company that supplies equipment to most of the studios and photographers in London.

Direct Lighting assisting course

It may seem stupid to have to do a course just to be an assistant, but I was puzzled by the strange names of some of the things used on shootings (big bens, jumpers, turtles, spiders…how am I supposed to know what a turtle is when someone asks me for one?!?) and it was incredibly useful to be able to have everything explained, including complicated lighting devices like the Briese.

I then felt confident enough to start to “harass” photographers again and I worked a couple of times with an amazing artist who doesn’t normally use assistants, Peter Ashworth.

I truly enjoyed working with Peter, he is so good with lighting and I learned a lot from him. He is also a respected portrait photographer and it was fascinating to see him working with a famous musician, putting him totally at his ease and directing him at his best to get killer images.

The last job I did for him was assisting (even if I’ve been a bit mischievous and I took some pictures inbetween, sorry Peter!) while he was shooting the new collection of Orschel-Read.

Stefan Orschel-Read is an incredible designer and, even if I’m not that into fashion, I was stunned by his work, it’s breathtaking.

Stefan Orschel-Read

Heather B did hair and make up and here there are some behind the scenes pictures.

the whole crew, except Stefan who took the picture

Going through my archive

I’m still job hunting, I send lots of emails everyday and it really annoys me when people don’t get back to me.

I used to be very bad at replying to messages on facebook, emails and text messages, but after I’ve realised how annoying it can be for the other person to wait a reply forever, I’ve decided to be better.

Another thing that I used to be awful at is sending free pictures to the people who posed for me or worked with me on not commercial projects, so I’m trying to go through my archive and send pictures to all these people now, hoping that they are not too mad at me and that karma will be happy 🙂

Today I’ve edited and sent a selection of pictures from a project that I did last summer, documenting the activities of volunteers in a pet sanctuary in the North of Italy called Porcikomodi.

This is my favourite picture of the lot, so I thought I could share it with you (if anyone read this blog) here.

Piercarlo cleaning up the pigs' shelter

On a completely different note, I also edited some fashion pics from a test shooting that I did around Easter with Heather Donaldson, a stylist from Leeds, so I put one of them as well, just for the stark contrast with the pig one 🙂

Model: Lewis Jamison, MUA: Irram Nash, Stylists: Heather Donaldson and Irram Nash

Meeting up with photographers in London

It is a week now since I’ve moved to London and in this short period of time I had the chance to meet some cool characters.

At the moment I’m trying to get into assisting, so most of the time I look at magazines and websites to find photographers that I would like to work with.

very unflattering snapshot of Ruvan that I took at the pub

Anyway the first photographer that I met in London wasn’t related to my job hunting mission: he actually contacted me after seeing the exhibition at Free Range and I was quite flattered that he showed some interest in my work.

Ruvan is an incredibly cool photographer and you should all check out the work on his website , because it’s amazing.
Based in New York,  he often works in London and he gave me some good tips for photography places here.
He gave me an interesting review of the world of fashion photography and he is indeed an unconventional fashion photographer: he never assisted in his life and he is bored by most of the fashion photography that appears on contemporary magazines.
Anyway I really liked him, he is such a charismatic and enthusiastic person that you can’t help but being fascinated by him, even if you don’t totally agree with everything he’s saying (sorry Ruvan, but I REALLY disagree with your adoration for Terry Richardson).
He put me at my ease and after our chat I was way less paranoid at the idea of meeting other photographers.

I did meet a few of them for interviews and I cross my fingers that they will get back to me in the next weeks to work together.

Another person who really made an impression on me is Nik Hartley, a fashion photographer from Manchester that I contacted for some assisting work. In a way he is the opposite of Ruvan: he assisted for 8 (yes, eight!) years before eventually starting as a freelance photographer on his own. He is a lovely person and he gave me so many tips about working as an assistant and the fashion industry that I will never be grateful enough: thanks Nik!

I think that it’s very important now that I’m not in college anymore to meet up with people who are into photography, it gives me interesting perspectives on the subject and it helps me to don’t give up on the whole “I-will-be-a-photographer-at-one-point” plan.